'You didn’t build that': A Fifth Similarity between Communism and Democracy

August 3rd, 2012
in Op Ed, syndication

by Frank Li

This is the fifteenth article of the series: “Towards An Ideal Form of Government”.

Previously, I identified four major similarities between communism and democracy as follows:

  1. Destruction of capitalism
  2. Brainwashing
  3. Ideology
  4. Kleptocracy.

In this article, I will identify “you didn’t build that” as a fifth major similarity between communism and democracy.

Follow up:

1. What is “you didn’t build that”?

In a recent campaign speech, President Obama stated: "If you've got a business - you didn't build that."

There has been a lot of discussion about this. None is better than this video discussion from the Wall Street Journal: Ad Watch: What Does ‘You Didn’t Build That' Really Mean?

This video provides some context from which you can form your own opinions. In the rest of this article I will share mine.

2. How do I feel about “you didn’t build that”?

As the founder and owner of a business, I was deeply offended by that statement, and would like to simply reply like this: “Yes, I built that!” Additionally, here are three basic questions for President Obama:

  1. Did not all the unsuccessful business people in the U.S. have the same (if not more) “help” from the government but fail anyway (e.g. Solyndra)?
  2. Don’t the successful business people pay, through confiscatory taxes, for all the government “help” they receive?
  3. When you phoned Michael Phelps after he won his 19th Olympic medal, dared you start with "you didn't build that (record)"?

As someone who grew up in communist China (1949-1976), I found President Obama’s statement distressing and sounding eerily familiar …

3. “You didn’t build that” in communism

One core idea of communism is the denial of the ownership of private property - all in the name of “you didn’t build that”. People (or the proletarians) did! So the communists in China did two things:

  1. They confiscated the property of the “rich” (e.g. factory owners and landlords), making them government property.
  2. They took all your rights away, and then gave some back to you - while demanding that you be grateful to them.

What was the result? China became dirt poor! Why and how? It turned out that the proletarians were proletarians for a good reason: they did not know how to build! In other words, “when the proletarians were in charge, everybody became a proletarian” (Ideology)!

4. “You didn’t build that” in democracy

A few years ago, someone conducted a worldwide survey based on one single question: “what do you think of Bill Gates?” Here are some results:

  1. America: “He is great. I wish my child will be like him.”
  2. Spain: “He is good, but he should pay more taxes.”
  3. France: “He is evil. Let’s burn down his house and confiscate all his property.”

The details of the survey are not important - You get the point, hopefully.

There should be no place in America for such an outrageous statement as “you didn’t build that”! I have already written a lot about America (e.g. What is America, Anyway? and American Democracy: What Went Wrong and When?). Here are two key points:

  1. America thrived previously due to rugged individualism and unfettered capitalism. America is in decline now because of its slide towards socialism and communism.
  2. No public servant in America, including the President, must be allowed to say to a master “you didn't build that”! It’s insulting; it’s un-American; it’s communistic!

Unfortunately, President Obama said just that! It is totally unacceptable and it is utterly indefensible, despite all the efforts by the White House and the Obama campaign!

Was it a gaffe? Yes, if gaffe means “when a politician tells the truth” (Wikipedia). I believe it was an accurate reflection of President Obama’s ideology for three reasons:

  1. He previously loudly professed “spreading the wealth”, and he recently initiated a naked assault on capitalism (Obama: Bain attacks ‘not a distraction’),
  2. His policy over the past three and a half years speak amply about his ideology. As a result, we are now more deeply in debt and more deeply into socialism than ever, with no easy way back!
  3. He has never owned or led a business. Instead, he has mostly been a public servant, but frequently spoke over his masters!

5. The U.S. vs. China

In China, there are no real democratic elections, yet. But some experiments have been conducted at the low levels. For example, at the village level, people often elect the richest person to be the village leader. Why? Because “we all want to be like him (or her)!”

In the U.S., we now face a critical choice: who should be our next President? Should we give Mitt Romney, a successful businessman, a chance, or continue with Barack Obama, a community organizer, a career politician, and a “not-good-enough” President at best? For the Chinese, the answer is a no-brainer. But for Americans, who knows …

China has come a long way to leave communism behind and embrace capitalism, while the U.S. is rapidly moving the other way! Thomas Sowell said it the best (The Limits of Power): we are “moving in the direction of the kind of economy that China has been forced to move away from.”

6. Discussion

Like communism, democracy has many merits in theory. But in practice and effect, democracy looks more and more like communism. I have, so far, identified five similarities between them, with this latest one, “you didn’t build that”, being the most obvious (I think): democracy has resulted in a communistic person being the American President! What more evidence do you still need to be convinced that democracy, as we know it today, is moving toward communism? An open communist as the American President?

Now, two basic questions for you:

  1. Romney's tax returns: Are you supposed to be angrier about what Mitt Romney does with his own money than about what President Obama does with your money (Who is Barack Obama)?
  2. Obama's grades in college: Everybody knows Barack Obama was inexperienced before becoming the President. But many think he is smart. If that’s true, why is it so hard for him to reveal his grades in college (Obama campaign makes case for releasing his college transcripts)? President George W. Bush did (a C student at Yale)!

All signs indicate that Barack Obama received a lot of “help” from the government throughout his life – Good for him! But it’s simply unacceptable for him to insult the successful business people, the heart and soul of America (the prosperous version), by saying “you didn’t build that”!

Something is profoundly wrong here - President Obama does not seem to understand America at all! No wonder America is so deeply in trouble …

What, then, is the solution for the U.S.? Bet on Mitt Romney by demanding that he be a great President as I suggested (an open letter to Mitt Romney)!

7. Closing

Change, start with the American President!


Related Articles

Previous articles by Frank Li

About the Author

Frank LiFrank Li is the Founder and President of W.E.I. (West-East International), a Chicago-based import & export company. Frank received his B.E. from Zhejiang University (China) in 1982, M.E. from the University of Tokyo in 1985, and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1988, all in Electrical Engineering. He worked for several companies until 2004, when he founded his own company W.E.I. Today, W.E.I. is a leader in the weighing industry not only in products & services, but also in thought and action.

Dr. Li writes extensively and uniquely on politics, for which he has been called "a modern-day Thomas Jefferson" (see page 31).

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  1. Robert Russell says :

    For all the strengths of an outside view your articles present, you must recognize that your view is lacking the depth of one who has lived as an American all his life. I appreciate many of the weaknesses you point out about current American Democracy, but I think your view of American Capitalism is blinded by your experience under Mao's communism. Until the gold rush or the mid 19th century, there was very limited capitalistic accumulation, and much of the capital accumulation then was at the end of a gun, or theft. Then it was the egregious horrors of the unfettered nature of the capitalism of the industrial revolution and railroad capitalism that led to the reforms of Teddy Roosevelt, himself an avowed capitalist.
    Now, American Capitalism has once again exceeded its useful and constructive limits, and threatens to sink the ship.
    It is not social welfare that is driving the national debt, but the corporate welfare. if one were to compare the welfare of the lower 90% of citizens to the welfare to corporations, we can see who gets most of the pie. At least in the past 30 years, the rich have accumulated most of the money that is now national debt. This is not communism, even if under communism, most of the wealth is controlled by a very few also. I would argue that the future obligations of social security and medicare are just that, future promises, but the wealth of the top 1% is real and present wealth essentially taken from others less fortunate.
    Perhaps more serious is the prospect looming over the world, communist, capitalist, Chinese or American: the prospect of of automation, where workers will not be necessary. What will happen to the vast majority of people who cannot find employment. And will all the rewards of automated enterprise belong to the few who own the means of production? Or even more bizarre, if few are employed, who is going to buy the automated production? In such a world, the Chinese may be better equipped to deal with the situation. My experience in China is that many people just seem to ignore the larger political/economic world and just make their way. Americans, if they ever knew that, have long since lost the kind of energy.
    I look forward to more of your considerations, and hope you are able to curb your clearly right wing political and economic advocacy. I am not suggesting that social liberalism is the answer to all ills, but I would be very clear that unfettered capitalism does not offer anything but the kind of chaos that resulted from the Reagan era deregulation of the of S & l industry, and the elimination of Glass Steigel regulations of banks. Capitalism has virtue, but not unfettered capitalism.

  2. Dave says :


    While a very well written response you need to do a little more honest research about deregulation. Most of that occurred under Clinton who on CNN and other networks even admitted it was a mistake.
    After Clinton, remember Bush tried 16 times to tighten regulations but was blocked, critisized and called racist. Check out 1995 when a little known lawyer won a lawsuit forcing Citibank to make loans to 200+ individuals who did not qualify for a home loan thus setting a precident for the housing crisis. That lawsuit was in Chicago and the lawyer was Barack Obama. He popped the car into neutral and pushed it in the ditch.

    You should also check out the total welfare payments versus corporate subsidies. We are not talking about what you think they are not paying in taxes as welfare. That is a whole other topic. Google paying 1.9% in taxes and GE moving factories to CHINA while Imelt is a jobs advisor to Obama is not fair I will agree. While I disagree with corporate subsidies, they are a drop in the bucket compared to the entitlement welfare crowd.

    All of us who work pay into SS. STOP taking the money out and redistributing it. In every town or city in this country that is facing financial trouble it is the social benefits that is bankrupting everyone of them. States and counties can not continue paying federally mandated benefits at current levels.

    WHile I will never be in the 1% it is time to stop villifying them since they pay well over half the taxes in this country. Even if you confiscate all of their wealth as MAO did it would only pay the nation's bills for less than 7 days one time only.

    This is actually the first time I have ever wasted time responding to such drivel. I hope you are able to curb your clearly left wing ideology.

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